2004 Conference Proceedings

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A COMPREHENSIVE INTRODUCTORY COURSE ON ACCESSIBLE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION ON THE WEB

Presenter(s)
Dagmar Amtmann, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
National Center for Accessible Information Technology in Education
U.W. Center for Technology and Disability Studies
University of Washington
Box 357920
Seattle, WA 98195
Email: dagmara@u.Washington.edu

Kurt L. Johnson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
National Center for Accessible Information Technology in Education
U.W. Center for Technology and Disability Studies
University of Washington
Box 357920
Seattle, WA 98195
Email: kjohnson@u.washington.edu

Summary:
We will demonstrate an interactive, multimedia, fully accessible web-based course on accessible IT in education and discuss uses for students, advocates, IT professionals, and others.

Technology developers and programmers who are unaware of accessibility issues can inadvertently create barriers for people with disabilities. When technology and people with disabilities are mentioned in the same sentence, most people think about assistive technology. This means that sometimes people who are responsible for acquiring, developing, or supporting IT think that the topic has nothing to do with them, but this is not true. Information technology and assistive technology often have to work together to provide access for people with disabilities. Increasing access to information by students and employees in educational institutions at all levels will require a sustained and concerted educational and outreach efforts to raise the awareness of the issues and to increase the knowledge related to disability and accessible IT.

The University of Washington's National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education, funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, we have developed and piloted a comprehensive introductory course on accessible information technology in education. The course is interactive, allowing students to engage with the material by answering questions and divert to other resources for additional information. Lessons include accessible multimedia events to illustrate the issues. Quizzes allow users to apply the concepts and test their knowledge.

The course provides a useful teaching tool that could be used by a range of people seeking training on accessible information technology issues. For example, the Disability Business Technical Assistance Centers who are now charged with increasing accessibility of IT in education can have new staff members take the course on line. Computer sciences, information sciences, engineering, library sciences, and other undergraduate and graduate training programs can use this course as an introductory module for their students. Policy makers, IT specialists, advocates, consumers, administrators, and others will find it useful "one stop shopping" for a thorough introduction.

The course includes an introduction to the concepts and terminology and key policy issues. It includes sections on each of the categories of IT delineated under Section 508, as well as an overview of key legal and policy issues.

The course is designed to be fully accessible to participants with disabilities. One of the principle goals of the course was to maintain a truly accessible product. In addition to commonly accepted and practiced accessibility considerations, all efforts were made to ensure that the product maintains device independence as prescribed by the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, currently a work-in-progress.

All content presentation techniques are achieved by use of Cascading Style Sheets that degrade gracefully, thus providing a naturally embedded and consequently up-to-date "plain text" rendering that is displayable on virtually any HTML-capable platform in the absence of style sheet support. While the course design appears best in the latest generation of graphical browsers, users of older browsers and technologies may also access the content. Similarly, users accessing the site by way of a less complex device, such as a cellular phone browser, would also be able to access the course (with the exception of some of the multi-media elements, which are then provided as transcripts).

It has been our aim to provide a model of a robust technology that, by design, may be presented successfully using a variety of platforms and technologies.

We will present elements of the course, demonstrate the key accessibility features, and describe how this course may be used by a variety of constituents.

More information may be found at http://www.washington.edu/accessit


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